Australians stranded in New Caledonia amid civil unrest

AFP / Delphine Mayeur

Australians stranded in New Caledonia are rationing food as they wait for a way out of the troubled Pacific island territory after riots that killed four people, a traveller from Sydney said on Saturday.

They are among 3,200 people who are stuck waiting to leave or enter the French-ruled territory as commercial flights have been cancelled due to the unrest that broke out this week, the local government said.

"The kids are definitely hungry because we don't really have much option of what we can feed them," Joanne Elias told Reuters by phone from a resort in the capital Noumea, where her family has been holed up.

The riots have been sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved by lawmakers in Paris that would allow French people who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections, which some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Five nights of upheaval have resulted in burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops, and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food.

Three indigenous Kanak and two police officers were among those killed. A sixth person was killed and two seriously injured on Saturday during a gun battle between two groups at a roadblock in Kaala-Gomen, French police said, without identifying the groups.

Hundreds of French police reinforcements began arriving on Friday in an effort to regain control of the capital.

Elias, who has been in the territory since May 10 with her husband and four children, said she had been told to fill a bathtub in case water ran out as food stocks dwindled.

"We don't know how long we're going to be here for," she said, adding that her family was among about 30 Australians stuck at the Chateau Royal resort.

Aircalin plans to resume flights on Tuesday when Tontouta airport is expected to reopen, and Air Caledonie has no flights planned for the time being, the airlines said.

The resort declined to comment on the situation, citing security reasons.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Canberra was "working with authorities in France and New Caledonia, and like-minded partners including New Zealand, to assess options for Australians to safely depart".

In a post on social media platform X on Saturday, she added that Noumea's La Tontouta International Airport remained closed and urged Australians "to exercise a high degree of caution in New Caledonia".

The U.S. advised citizens to "reconsider travel to New Caledonia due to  civil unrest and crime" on Friday.

The New Caledonia government said that on Friday, the island had food stocks for two months, and the problem was distribution.

Operations to supply food and medicine to the public will begin with teams including specialists in mine clearing and removing road barricades booby-trapped by activists, French officials have said.

More from International News

On Virgin Radio today

Trending on Virgin Radio

  • Bassem Youssef

    One of the most talked about comedians in the world takes over The Kris Fade Show. Watch the full interview here...

  • Regional Artist Spotlight Podcast

    Hear Maz & James chatting to the featured artists every month with Flash Entertainment.

  • ARN News Centre

    Get the latest UAE and world news from our award winning team of journalists. The ARN News Centre is the country's most trusted source of information.

  • Mais Vault on the Kris Fade Show!

    The boys tried their 'pick up' lines on Mais Vault and things did not go according to plan...